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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

April 23, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Back from Boston, and into some spring football . . .

Monday, the 22nd of April, was a weather day in Seattle hauntingly similar to Boston exactly a week earlier — a high temperature of about 61, sunny and a bit of a breeze. For somebody who was back there and saw the triumph and the tragedy (from a distance), it was impossible not to feel a bit of a tug.

We’d gone back there to see our son run his first Boston. Our path took us onto Boylston Street, on the other side from the bombings, probably 20 minutes from when they happened. I’ve found that in the days that followed, images and realizations came back sort of randomly — like the notion that, walking along that street, albeit on the other side, we were no doubt examined on surveillance video.

I also can’t forget an image on Heartbreak Hill, where a few of us initially viewed the race. A wheelchair competitor absolutely met his match on the hill. He was all but neutralized by it, virtually unable to keep his chair in motion. With a supreme effort, and with loud entreaties from spectators on the hill, restarted himself, got the thing moving — and I assume overcame the challenge.

Saturday at Fenway Park (we’d left by then) — the first day the Red Sox had played at home since the bombings — they had a touching pre-game tribute, especially the video presentation set to music. Then there was the brief address from the Sox’ David Ortiz. Somehow, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ortiz’ advisory, intended to rebuke the notion of terrorism — “This is our bleeping city!” — ends up on T-shirts.

Now, the Pac-12 Confidential blog retreats to calmer waters. We’re shortly going to be assessing, in a series, spring-football camps at the 12 schools, something we did a year ago.

Strange beast, spring football. Personally, I’ve never much enjoyed it. (Maybe the fact that in the Northwest, it’s often conducted in blustery, mid-40s temperatures, has something to do with it.) It’s often a time of unseen stories and incremental progress, known only to the coaches who are orchestrating it.

Often, what happens in the spring bears little correlation to what goes on in the fall, so from a media perspective, it’s risky to attach too much importance to the buzz around a particular player. A year ago at Washington State, Mike Leach was talking up Andrei Lintz, converting from tight end to slot receiver, as a breakthrough player, the kind of specimen he hadn’t seen at Texas Tech.

In 2012, Lintz caught two passes for 14 yards.

At the other extreme was Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly. He did nothing to distinguish himself in ASU’s first spring drills under first-year coach Todd Graham; in fact, he was third-string coming out of spring. Then he rallied in fall camp, shocking Graham by winning the starting job, and led the Sun Devils to a solid season and a bowl victory.

But there’s interest out there among devoted fans, reflected in the way media now cover spring football. As recently as the late 1990s, when I was covering Washington for the Post-Intelligencer, we staffed perhaps one of every two or three practices — pretty much what everybody else was doing. There simply didn’t seem to be much thirst for it. Now — perhaps it’s partly because of the proliferation of fan websites — every practice is covered by area papers.

We’ll advise a balance, then. If you need a spring-football fix, great. Just remember that, no matter how much coaches try to engage players in the spring, what happens in August is a lot more important.





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